Written by Nagina Bains
DIWALI over time has encompassed a mélange of concepts, ideas, rituals, reasons, with the old giving way to the new. Our greetings are now interspersed with conversations of poor air quality, banning of crackers, corporate gifting ideas and most of all, weight loss and healthy indulgences. And that’s exactly how the Diwali mithai has now got a novel avatar with gluten-free, organic and international ingredients defining its new flavour.
Reaffirming a healthier Diwali is Moonstar Doad, a health educator, plant-based recipe creator and also founder of Parshada, a community space in Sector 18, Chandigarh. She says, “Gluten-free flour if eaten with lots of fibre is easier to digest. Vegetables are high in fibre, so for savoury snacks, instead of using water to knead plain flour, a vegetable paste can be added, making the grain full of fibre,” says Doad. She has created healthy ladoos with ragi and gur, coconut, sesame and dates, cacao coconut dates, besan with gur, and cashew and almonds, all of which are free from oil, sugar, butter, gluten and oil.
The trend percolates to food and beverage enterprises, home bakers, sweet stores and luxury hospitality units. Chef Japvir Singh Vohra, executive chef of JW Marriot, Chandigarh says, “Our diwali hampers comprise organic offerings such as tea, honey and smoked sea-salt. Sweets and cakes are made from locally sourced jaggery, dried nuts, avocado and olive oils, and dark chocolate.”
City-based chef Tanvi Goswami says that wheat and milk allergy is widespread these days, perhaps owing to the fact that high hybrid wheat has changed the genetic structure of the food crop, making it higher in gluten and sugar. Grains and millets such as ragi, kuttu, rice, bajra, barri, amaranth, makka, jowar and nuts are gluten free. These can be used, recommends the chef.
Naaznin Husein, National executive committee member of The Indian Dietetic Association (IDA) – Mumbai Chapter and Founder of Freedom Wellness Management explains that because of the increased contamination and adulteration, we need to make a conscious effort to include foods that are organic and of good quality. “If you are looking for natural detoxifying foods before you indulge this festive time, include a bowl of yogurt mixed with walnuts and a citrus fruit of your choice to create good bacteria in the stomach that would keep your gut healthy and happy,” she says.
The kheel batashas of Delhi, gulgule of Uttar Pradesh, singhal of Uttarakhand and Punjabi pinni can never lose their popularity, even though these are now made in healthier versions. So, now we have besan date ladoos, cocoa date truffles, and coconut sesame bars. Chef and food consultant Manu Mohindra agrees, “Ladoos are being made with organic jaggery, ground millets, whole grains, with organic desi ghee. Cookies are made of whole wheat flour, bran, oats and other wholesome ingredients. With more people asking for customised mithai and snacks such as baked mathis and bhakarwadis, there are now sugar free versions of old favourites like kalakand.”
Chandigarh-based baker Saryu Bansal of the House of Whisk is busy creating gluten-free, and diabetic-friendly cakes and sweets made with natural sweeteners like honey, coconut palm sugar, jaggery and dates. Bansal sees people opting for fresh, healthy, natural, and chemical-free options. “There is a demand for natural energy bars made with dry fruits, nuts and natural sweeteners, fibre-rich atta, oatmeal, ragi biscuits and cookies. So we are moving towards a place where people want to celebrate and enjoy their meetha in the festive season but without compromising on health,” says Bansal.This festive season, the mithai turns gluten-free and organic, with international ingredients defining its flavour.